Defend Yourself the Taoist Way

Pick up an issue of Black Belt or Inside Kung Fu magazine. Watch a self-defense DVD. Browse a martial arts website. If you had to write captions under each picture, what would they say?

Black Belt Magazine

My hands are deadly weapons.
I am nobody’s victim.
Don’t mess with me, or you’ll regret it.

These poses remind your would-be attacker what they stand to lose. And sure, they are intimidating, to a degree.

The problem is, your attacker doesn’t harbor any intention of losing, and so the potential downside may just be disregarded.

Perhaps a different approach to self-defense would be more effective. Instead of emphasizing the risks, how about eliminating the benefits? How about advertising no upside to the attacker, even if they were to achieve a complete and total victory?

Lao Tzu

My hands can offer no challenge.
Beating me will not enhance your reputation.
Don’t bother messing with me; I forfeit.

Instead of hiding your weakness, conceal your strength. Play the lamb instead of the lion.


  1. But wouldn’t muggers and thieves be looking for those kinds of people? Those that give up easily, walk away from open spaces, have their head turned low; these are traits that make great robbery victims. There’s almost always something to gain, whether it’s a wallet, a watch, or a cell phone.

    The philosophy works fine for bar-fights I guess, but thieves aren’t looking for a reputation, they’re looking for easy cash.

  2. If that were the case, then looking poor and difficult would have to be part of the solution.

  3. I suppose dressing like a homeless person is one viable solution to getting mugged or robbed… however, I don’t think all of us have a set of extra ragged clothing with us at all times…

  4. My wallet offers no money.
    I have no riches for you to take.
    I am a waste of your time.

  5. I have found that a relaxed demeanor, open hands, and a pleasant voice foils many an aggresive intent.

  6. This method does not work on sociopaths. They don’t care who you are. Or what you say. Its still going to happen to you.

  7. Gabe, this method does work on people who care only about themselves. Perhaps I have met a few?

    This was the broader point I meant to convey: to succeed in self-defense, one needs to stop thinking solely about one’s own interests, or the interests of “fairness” and “justice”, and consider the perspective of the immoral/amoral attacker. Fighting is a form of communication. Don’t let it become a monologue.

  8. Instead of hiding your weakness, conceal your strength. Play the lamb instead of the lion.

    “Sim – To evade, not meeting force directly but not to go too far into yielding.- HOP GAR philosophy”

    Try Deception… Water is weak till it is forced, then it cuts steel.

  9. If you look every human in your environment in the eye you will learn everything you need to know about yourself and others in a very small amount of time. This is the Yang path, and if you aren’t ready for it than you had better stick with Yin. Following the Yang path successfully will convert you into a demon so if you aren’t prepared than keep dreaming in your head while mean men stare down the front and back of your head AND take the girls. Get real, eyeballs.

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